Olympics 2008 » Column
The wait for eight

In 1936, this was a great achievement. As time passed, the historical relevance of his victories grew exponentially not only because of what Berlin came to symbolise, but how Owen’s humble life compared to the Nazi dream and its demise. If you ask a Japanese or someone from Africa who is the greatest Olympian, they would have different answers.

Can we imagine what it was like for an African to see Abibe Bikkila win the marathon barefoot? Can we imagine the embodiment of Shinto stoicism and what that meant to the people of Japan when Shun Fujimoto stuck his landing with a broken knee to give the Japanese team the gold medal less than a generation after their defeat in a World War?

No, the greatest Olympian will be different things to different people. The important thing for the people of India will be for them to find in their team an athlete or athletes who inspire them to use the canvas of sport to stand for something bigger than themselves. The Olympic Games though are still what they were originally designed to be for both the participant and the viewer—‘inspirational internationalism’.

I would like to encourage Indians to use the Olympics as an inspiration to do, not just watch what television sports have become: entertainment, which is a new pressure and skill to master for current athletes. During the 2000 Sydney Olympics, for example, sports equipment sales increased by 40 per cent.

Australians didn’t just watch, they went out and had a go too. Sometimes I muse about whether the Olympics should dispense with nationalism, flags and anthems and just cheer for the athlete. The peoples of the world are different, our cultures, food, history, language and customs.

This diversity needs to be fostered and celebrated and the Olympic Games is great opportunity to do that.

The author won five swimming medals, including three golds for Australia at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Courtesy: India Today

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Medals Tally (Beijing 2008)
Country G S B T
1. China 51 21 28 100
2. USA 36 38 36 110
3. Russia 23 21 28 72
4. Britain 19 13 15 47
5. Germany 16 10 15 41
6. Australia 14 15 17 46
7. S Korea 13 10 8 31
8. Japan 9 6 10 25
9. Italy 8 10 10 28
10. France 7 16 17 40
50. India 1 0 2 3
View complete tally »
Medals Tally ( Athens 2004)
We are proud of Abhinav Bindra, Sushil Kumar and Bijender Kumar. Congratulations to all of them. I hope now the corporate world and media in the country will concentrate more on games other than cricket.
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